By Karen D Turner

The dreams were so vivid, the closer they got the more vivid they were. He had tried, in the past. to go else were, they were not to be ignored. He had tried to ignore them in the past, to his cost. Sometimes it was a time to hit a bank, or the money was on a different train. Certain people would be in a certain place and to be avoided. He had always had these, since he was a child, and the harder the dreams came the worse the situation. Mostly he paid attention to the warnings, especially since, they were awaiting amnesty His and his lifelong friends life would depend on it. He never explained why or how, more often than not he didn't have to. The eye roll and groan from Curry had become a thing he no longer noticed. The sigh as he suddenly changed his mind or altered a plan at the last moment he would shrug off with humor or a joke. It was a burden he could not explain or would be understood. What he did know is that they had never been as strong as this time. Thy kept him awake and haunted his dreams. Sapping his usual happy demeanor, worrying his friend.

It was warm in the sun, the cold wind whipped its icy fingers at them as they left the trees. Heyes pulled his jacket closer around him as they rode along. The Kid, riding along beside him chuckled dropping his head with a smile. Heyes eyed him knowing he was going to go on about how wonderful a sheepskin coat was. There was nothing wrong with his, it was useful, he didn't stand out so much. He huffed as he settled into his saddle. “You wanna stop and light a fire? It's about time we ate, warm up a bit, nice sunny spot over there.” Kid pushed his horse to a canter, pulling up in the sunny grassy spot. “Perfect, horses can graze, we can eat an you can warm up.” Kid climbed down and loosened his cinch as he continued. “You know what your trouble is Heyes? Superstitious, your superstitious. We could be way south of here in the warm. But no you gotta be up here where its cold for Christmas.” Kid left his horse to graze as wood was collected. Curry stopped and looked up at Heyes, who was leaning on the horn of his saddle watching him. “What?” Heyes shrugged and dismounted, loosening his cinch.

Heyes was thinking, they did do this every year, and he could not explain why they had to spend Christmas at the town called Christmas, or why they had to turn up on the right day. Curry wouldn't understand, hell he didn't understand he just knew. He was tired, he hadn't slept much this week, but Curry had, like a baby. He almost dreaded sleep, it was the same every year. His lifelong friend always worried about him this time of year, he had always believed it was superstition that took them to Christmas every year. It was that, which made him less than his usual teasing joyous self. Was best to let him think that, in Heyes mind. “There ya go nice roaring fire.” His companion stated as he removed his bed roll, coffee pot and food from his saddle bag, setting about putting them on to heat. “You have a snooze while I cook us some grub.” Heyes removed his bed roll and shook it out by the fire pulling the blanket around him. As he warmed up he drifted off to sleep.

They rode past the sign that said Christmas, with its festive decorations on the sign. Down the main street to the sheriffs office. James was sitting on the stoop whittling with his feet on the rail. “Heyes, Curry.” He said not looking up. “Usual visit? Its all quiet here lets keep it that way shall we?” Heyes touched his hat in greeting as he leaned forward on his horn to speak. He felt Curry fall against him and James drop his whittling before he heard the shot. Kid fell as Heyes horse moved away allowing him to drop, a red stain flowing across his chest, as he felt the shot hit him hard in the chest, then blackness. Heyes forced his eyes open the trees, grass and fire were all as they should be. Kid was fussing with the small pot, all was well, as he drifted off back to sleep.

The sign for Christmas was the same, as before. He pulled up his horse asking the date. With a sigh Kid replayed it was the thirteenth same as last year Friday the thirteenth of December, and rode on. Heyes hurried to catch up as they rode into town. There was James whittling, feet up as usual. A few people were in town, going about their business. A small boy sat on the steps of the general store, no shoes, clothes not much more than rags. “You check in with James.” He said as he strolled his horse to the boy. He leaned down and handed him a silver dollar. “Go get some food an some shoes boy, its Christmas.” They boy beamed up at him and was about to speak, when he heard the shot. Quickly looking back he saw his friend fall from the saddle, the blood oozing through his coat as the Sheriff drew his gun in surprise, looking around. He felt the shot hit him in the back as he tumbled forward to blackness. He forced his eyes open looking around. Kid was poking the fire with a stick, and quickly looked over to him. He smiled. “Wont be long Heyes. You sick or just tired? There's a Doctor in Christmas you need to go see him?” Heyes shook his head and drifted off to sleep.

The sign, festive and greeting, James on the stoop, the boy in rags and no shoes, what was he missing? The Doctor? Could he be sick? He pointed at the Doctors office as they rode in and pulled up outside. They dismounted and tied up their horses, nothing happened. They walked onto the stoop, with a wave to James whittling at the jail house, who nodded in return. They turned and Curry fell against him crumpling to the ground as he felt the shot hit him in the ribs as he heard the first shot, then blackness. He forced his eyes open, Kid was stirring the beans, rubbing his hands together. He flicked a look as Heyes opened his eyes. “Some nice hot bacon and beans.” He said pointing at the small pot. “Warm you right up, you just got cold.” Curry leaned over and put his blanket on to Heyes and tucked him in. Leaning back to the fire with a concerned look. Heyes grinned. “Yea I'm just cold.” as he closed his eyes again.

The sign again, check the date, the day, all the same. James, whittling, people shopping, the ragged boy. “Kid, we gonna have a nice hot bath first or a drink?” Kid smiled at him and pointed to the Saloon. “Whiskey and a steak, then a bath. Best check in first.” Heyes quipped back. “Why? You think James ain't expecting us about now?” They rode past James on the stoop who touched his hat to them as they rode past, continuing about his ever diminishing piece of wood. Heyes waited, nothing happened. A huge grin crossed his face, he put his arm around Kids shoulder and they strolled in to order their whiskey and steak, sitting at a large round table sipping their warming drink by the blazing pot belly stove waiting for their steak.

Curry quietly teased him, saying he was worried for a while, he had been so quiet. Heyes lied saying he was just cold and he was fine now he was warm. He relaxed as the steaks arrived and he chuckled as his friend tucked into the steak as if he had never eaten before. James strolled in and over to them pulling up a seat as Heyes poured him a drink. “Wouldn't be the same without you two here for Christmas boys. I took the liberty of booking you guys a room and the bath house will be ready in about a half hour for ya.” Heyes beamed him a smile. “Why thank you James, mighty kind of you to do that. Hows the wife an kids?” Small talk was made and jokes had, bills payed and the hot bath awaited. They strolled across the street whiskey in hand discussing the merits of living in a town as Curry crumpled next to him. Heyes woke with a start. Curry standing over him. “Hey? What the hell? What? You were yelling what the hell? You okay? Hear eat this, an drink this.” Curry put his hand on Heyes brow. “You ain't got a fever Heyes, but I'm kinda worried. Christmas is like five miles from here. I'm gonna bank up the fire an ...” Heyes grabbed his arm. “No kid I'm good. I'm just cold. Give me an hour and I'm gonna be fine.

Heyes shuffled up on his arm, spooning the bacon and beans. They tasted good and warmed him up. He sipped the coffee that was strong and hot, he felt much better. This had been going on for three days and he was exhausted. This didn't happen often but when it did he payed attention. He had learned over the years that if he ignored it someone died. Then he would have to deal with the consequences of not paying attention. As he ate he re ran it through his mind. He was missing something, he didn't know what it was. James, they acknowledged and nothing more. Ignore the kid on the stoop, rags and all. No Doctor, Saloon was fine till they came out …. What if … Heyes put his plate and mug down and shuffled down under the blankets and closed his eyes.

He ran through it again, the sign with the garland. Ride into the main street … Wait. If the shots all hit them at the same angle. “Kid wait.” He looked up onto the top of a building and could just see the outline of a figure. Heyes pulled his rifle and aimed at the man telling him to stand and drop it. “James” He yelled. “Here's me thinking we were friends. You on the roof get up slow an easy, put that rifle down.” James kicked off the rail and trotted over to Heyes and Curry. Looked up to the man, hands held high on the roof. James scratched his head “You hold him there I'm gonna get him.” He walked off to the building as Heyes beamed a smile at the man on the roof.

Heyes woke up with a start that made the Kid jump. He threw back the blankets with a smile. “Whats the date Kid?” Curry frowned at him. “Friday December thirteen 1872.” Heyes beamed a smile at him that made him feel he was now fine and whatever his problem was it had passed. Curry handed him more coffee, which he drank with a sigh. The Kid squatted down by the fire warming his hands looking at Heyes with a frown. He waved his hand as he spoke. “You wanna tell me what that was all about? Cuz you had me worried for a while there.” Heyes looked Kid square in the eyes. “Oh I was cold I recon. Hey I got a feelin were gonna have a nice relaxing Christmas this year.” He threw the dregs of his coffee into the fire and stood whistling, as he rolled up the bed rolls. “I see a nice juicy steak in your future.” Kid shook his head and put out the fire, wondering why they had to do this every year, when they could head south and be much warmer.

Christmas was ridden to, Heyes removed his rifle as they reached the edge of town. The shooter was called and James ran up to get him. Kid Curry leaned on his saddle horn and pushed his hat onto the back of his head. He rubbed his chin and slightly shook his head, pointing at the man on the roof. “Eyes like a hawk you got Heyes. Were getting predictable. You know who that is?” They waited for James to bring him down and out of the door. Heyes beamed a smile “Never seen him before in my life.” James pushed him toward the jail with his colt, mumbling, it was Christmas god damn it an not in his town, no siree. Anyone who behaves themselves is welcome in Christmas, at Christmas. Kid shook his head. “I been doin this a long time Heyes an I didn't see him.”

“Well Kid This is a safe place for us for some down time. Call it Superstition or luck. You do what you do an I do what I do. Steak and a nice hot bath, or bath and a nice hot steak?” Kid pointed to the saloon. Heyes nodded and pushed his horse into a walk pulling up next to a barefoot kid sitting on the stoop. Heyes dismounted and handed his horse to the boy. “Shiny new dollar from each of us if you take our horses to the livery an bed em down for us?” The boy looked up at him with a grin, giving a sharp nod. Heyes handed him two shiny dollars and his rein. “You get yourself some shoes and a Jacket to keep the cold out. Merry Christmas.” Heyes and Curry watched him take their horses toward the livery as James strolled over. “I was expecting you boys. He must have sneaked in last night. I'm gonna hold him till your gone. He could have gotten you both.” Heyes put his arm around James shoulder and guided him into the saloon saying the first round was on the Kid. “Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if we weren't in Christmas now would it?” James chuckled and rubbed his chin agreeing it wouldn't no, wanting to know how he had spotted the man. Hayes chuckled saying magical things happened at Christmas and he would leave it at that.